The University Council at the University of Georgia met on Wednesday for the second time since February. No major COVID-19 updates were discussed, but some adjustments were made with diversity and inclusion at the forefront.
The action item that garnered the most discussion was the proposal from the University Curriculum Committee to revise UGA’s religious holidays attendance policy. Revisions were suggested to include the ability for students to complete an alternate assignment as opposed to making up work, and to allow for administering assignments in advance of the planned absence.
A revision to the implementation of the policy was also proposed that requires students to submit a written notice at least one week in advance of the religious holiday to their instructor.
Questions were raised concerning how lenient instructors had to be in accommodating for recognized religious holidays. Janet Westpheling of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences questioned the extent of this policy.
“There are 266 listed interfaith religious accommodation days… So my question is this: what constitutes a religious holiday requiring accommodation? So if you take one example, Lent… it’s a 40 day period before Easter,” said Westpheling. “If a student comes and says ‘for 40 days I want an accommodation not to take tests, quizzes or turn in homework assignments’ who makes the decision to honor that request… and how will that decision be made?”
John Maerz of the University Curriculum Committee said that this question was previously raised. He said the current policy was “nebulous” in guiding the discretion of instructors, and students were concerned with what is considered “recognized” and if that recognition reflected efforts to be more inclusive in university policy.
“The committee struggled with the idea of how we be inclusive relative to being something that is not unwieldy for the faculty, and a majority of faculty felt this policy statement was sufficient in that regard,” said Maerz.
The revisions were ultimately approved by the council, with 127 yes votes, 27 no votes, and 14 abstentions, according to UGA President Jere Morehead.
Another point of discussion was one of 10 packaged confirmation items from the Executive Committee: the proposal to eliminate the African American studies undergraduate certificate.
Puneet Dwivedi, an associate professor in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, expressed concern for the elimination of the certificate, but upon further discussion, only one student had graduated with the certificate in the last six years. The intention for the removal of the certificate program is so more focus can be redirected to the African American studies minor.
The package that the proposal was a part of, along with the creation of new minors in historic preservation and international affairs, was approved.
The minutes from the meeting will be available on October 5, and the next University Council meeting is scheduled for October 21.